A Russian bass, often considered the greatest of the century. Fyodor Ivanovich Shalyapin, usually transcribed Feodor Chaliapin, was born into poverty in Kazan on 11 February 1873. He joined a provincial opera company and in 1892 studied singing in Tbilisi. His first major role was as Stolnik in Moniuszko's Halko.

Taught and promoted by the tenor Dmitri Uzatov, in 1894 he had his St Petersburg debut, and appeared in Mamontov's Private Opera in Moscow in 1896.

By now famous, he appeared at La Scala in 1901, as Mefistofele in Boito's opera, co-starring with Caruso. His performance was a sensation, and Boito hailed him as the role's best interpreter. He sang in New York in 1907; and in Paris and London in 1913, sponsored by Diaghilev: it was the first time Boris Godunov had been heard in London. He was also renowned as Mephistopheles in Gounod's Faust.

Impoverished by the Revolution, he left Russia in 1920 and sang at the Metropolitan Opera in New York between 1921 and 1925.

Chaliapin's last records were made in 1936, still virtually at the height of his powers. He made many recordings of Russian folk songs, religious music, and the songs of Mussorgsky. He died in Paris on 12 April 1938. His autobiography is called Man and Mask. There is a biography by Gorky.

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